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December 19, 2009

Maury's Jack Baker Gets Career Win #600

For longtime Maury Head Basketball Coach Jack Baker, it was simply another critical Eastern District game on Friday night against the Churchland Truckers that his team needed to win to stay atop the league standings

For longtime Maury Head Basketball Coach Jack Baker, it was simply another critical Eastern District game on Friday night against the Churchland Truckers that his team needed to win to stay atop the league standings. However, to others and to the 58-year-old Baker later on when he has time to reflect, the game was more than that as the 71-55 victory over Churchland gave him win #600 in his illustrious career.

Afterwards, a special presentation was made to Baker for the 600th win where he was presented the game ball, and got a chance to celebrate it with his players, wife, mother and three-year-old twins among others.

"It obviously will mean more to me after this season's over, but right now I'm just concerned about us getting better. We've had some up and down games, and I think we're starting to gel a little bit hopefully. Really when it's all said and done, 600 is a number. I know it's a big number, but it's still just a number right now," said Baker, who's in his 34th season as Maury's Head Basketball Coach and became only the sixth man in VHSL history to reach 600 wins on the hardwood.

"Somebody asked me earlier, what did you feel like today and I said I was worried about our matchup with Churchland because they're small and quick, and they had beaten us seven times in a row. All my concern was with them."

And that concern rightfully so since Truckers point guard Terrell Diggs was coming off a triple-double in his previous game vs. Norview. Diggs entered averaging 18.6 points, 8.8 assists and 7.5 steals per game.

At half-time, Maury led by a score of 30-23, despite shooting 0-for-6 from the foul line and knowing that the Truckers were able to overcome a 16-point deficit in the district playoffs vs. the Commodores a year ago to end their season.

Leading by 13 early in the third quarter, Maury was able to push the lead to as much as 22 thanks in large part to four three-pointers, three in the third period alone, by Kevin Buchanan. The dribble penetration by junior guard Sim Frazier, who finished a rebound shy of a triple-double with 15 points, 11 assists and nine rebounds, opened up some of those looks from the outside for Buchanan.

"He can shoot it," Baker said of Buchanan. "One of our problems early on was we couldn't put the ball in the hole. We shot 30% against Ocean Lakes and 32% against First Colonial, and he just wasn't shooting the ball. When he shoots it that gives us another weapon."

It was a typical Baker team game on Friday with five Commodores scoring in double-figures and Maury shooting 10-of-12 from the field in the third quarter to put distance between them and Churchland. Defensively, they held Diggs to 1-of-10 shooting in the first half, 9-of-28 for the game and even though he got a game-high 24 points, they didn't let him take over like he did last February in the district tournament.

"I thought Sim beside his offensive numbers did a pretty good job on Diggs," Baker agreed. "He got to the hole a few times, but for the most part I thought we did a pretty good job, and I thought Jamal [Ferguson] and Buchanan did a pretty good job on [Devin] Patterson and [Dre] Demiel."

Churchland Head Coach Pat Dulin in his second season with the Truckers noted that Baker has 567 more wins than he does, though for the time being, he'll enjoy the 3-1 record he has against the living legend.

"It was definitely his night. My dad used to take me as a kid and watch his teams play. I'm big on local history, and it's an honor to be on the court with him for his win," said Dulin. "Did I want it to happen tonight? No. I would've rather it happen at the Scope on Tuesday. That said, Jack's a great guy, he's a class act and he's the way High School Basketball should be. He told me tonight he's been around 35 years and I'm only 31, so he's been coaching longer than I've been alive. Hopefully one day it'll be me there."

Dulin was impressed with how Maury's front-court players, Khobi Williamson and Alphonso Leary, ran the floor and controlled the boards. Maury had a 43-24 rebounding advantage, 20 boards by that inside tandem, and he also felt Ferguson and Frazier did a nice job setting the tempo and keeping Churchland from getting its transition game.

"Our game is we attack the basket, drive and dish, and we were settling for the jump shot most of the first half and we took a lot since we were down in the second half. When you're our size, you can't settle for the jump shot unless you're going to make them. We didn't get up and down the court like we usually do. Maury did an excellent job of getting back on defense and getting out in transition."

One of the happiest players for Baker's 600th career win was Frazier, a three-year starter at the guard spot. Frazier said Baker has meant as much to him off the court as he has on it during that time frame.

"Coach Baker's always enthusiastic. I've been with him for three years, he's never told me anything wrong and I love him to death. I've learn from him to stay positive, be a leader and that will get you through life. He takes care of you, and he's like another father figure. Anything I need, Coach Baker has," Frazier said, adding that Baker likes 4-0 more than 600.

"To be honest with you, I think he's happier to be 4-0 in the district. That's just Coach Baker and how he is."

At 5-3 overall, Maury has proven to play with the elite, beating Booker T. Washington by 22 and winning at home against a Norcom team that earlier this season beat defending State Champion King's Fork. The Commodores lost out-of-district games to First Colonial and Ocean Lakes from the Beach District, two teams that did not make the regional playoffs last season and were expected to be middle of the pack finishers in the Beach.

"Although we're somewhat experienced, we've got a lot of young kids, too. We haven't reached a level where we come ready to play every night. That's nothing against Ocean Lakes or First Colonial because they simply outplayed us," Baker stated. "But if we get to that level where we're ready to go every night, I think we've got a pretty good chance to be a real good basketball team."

While Maury doesn't have many seniors on the roster, they do have an experienced Head Coach, one now with 600 career victories. And counting . . .

Postgame Audio with Maury Coach Jack Baker After Career Win #600


Maury 71:

Sim Frazier - 15Pts. 7-11FG, 9Reb. 11Ast. 2Stl.

Alphonso Leary - 15Pts. 5-6FG, 5-9FT, 12Reb. 5Blk.

Kevin Buchanan - 14Pts. 5-6FG, 4-4 3's, 3Reb.

Jamal Ferguson - 13Pts. 7-11FG, 8Reb.

Khobi Williamson - 12Pts. 6-6FG, 8Reb. 4Blk.

Churchland 55:

Terrell Diggs - 24Pts. 9-28FG, 2-11 3's, 3-4FT, 5Reb. 5Ast. 4Stl.

Devin Patterson - 12Pts. 6-15FG, 5Ast. 3Stl.

Chris Brooks - 10Pts. 9Reb. 3Stl.

Matthew Hatfield has covered Eastern Region Basketball & Football since 2004 for VirginiaPreps.com - the #1 High School Sports Site on the Rivals Network. Check out Hatfield's website - www.matthewhatfield.com - for more on the pro and college sports scene. To contact Matthew, please e-mail hatfieldsports2k4@yahoo.com, and catch him every Saturday during High School Sports Talk on ESPN Radio 94.1.

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